Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eight thoughts on Nanowrimo, 2011

I've been doing Nanowrimo for three years now, and although that's not exactly the longest time in the world, I think I can safely say that I'm pretty well aware of my own patterns over the course of November.

For one, I always begin the month with a fabulous, ambitious, glowing idea of what it is I'm going to accomplish. I have dreams, hopes, aspirations! I imagine myself churning out the most amazing novel that's ever been written. I imagine writing a brilliant novel that is not only enjoyable to read but intellectually stimulating as well; my own personal treatise, arguing for whatever it is that has caught me up this year.

By the end of the month I'm sitting bleary-eyed before my computer screen, making up random collections of words in order to claim that final prize - the little purple bar above my username that proclaims WINNER! Gone are the dreams of literary brilliance, of masterful thematic exploration and in-depth analysis of modern society. Instead, I just want to quietly hobble over the finish line and sit in the corner mumbling softly to myself, massaging the fingers that are still sore from typing those last 10 000 words.

And yet I return year after year. I'm not going to spend time wondering why I do this - I guess it's just who I am.

But I do want to spend a few moments pondering what it is I've learned from this year's Nanowrimo experience. So here it is, a brief look at some of the things I've learnt about myself and about writing in general, all in one month:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Destined for Each Other? Nanowrimo 2011

I'm back, and I bring my Nanowrimo novel with me! Yes, I've decided I'm going to do Nanowrimo again this year, and hopefully keep up my two-year winning streak. I'm a little bit late in posting this, as I've been frantically finishing my coursework this past week, but now that uni's over I can focus more on writing.

So, here it is: my novel and a short excerpt. I had a horrible time writing the synopsis. For some strange reason I had a very clear idea of the way the plot was supposed to go, but the minute I tried to put it down on paper, I couldn't do it. I thought the idea behind me novel was so simple, but apparently I was wrong.

Anyway, this is an idea I got in November or December last year, after reading Lauren Kate's Fallen. I think what originally frustrated me was the love-plot that the novel focused on. In essence, a girl dies and is reborn over and over, and an angel who's in love with her keeps seeking her out to make her magically remember that they're soulmates.

This got me thinking about the whole 'destined for each other' thing. I've always been rather unconvinced by the 'soulmates' idea that seems to be so popular in fiction and film, and lately it's started to really actively annoy me.

It struck me as pretty unfair that you should be born over and over again and yet get no choice as to who you're forced to fall in love with. If all that ties you to one person is the memory of a romance in a past life, is it not rather tyrannical to insist that you have to love them in the next life too?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fun With Charts, Part Two: My Reading In Perspective

I was going to give this post a title something along the lines of, 'See? Playing Charts Can be Used for Good!' but I didn't think it had that certain something. I've been playing around with Excel and thought I would use my newfound powers for good rather than evil.
As I've said before, I'm the sort of person who likes keeping a record of every single book I've read. So when I was searching for some kind of data to test my mad new Excel skills on, I thought I may as well chart my reading progress throughout the year. I mean, technically, it's almost the middle of the year, so why not, right?

(By the way - Sarah Enni does some amazing things with graphs and charts at her blog, which I can never hope to live up to. But if you're interested in YA fiction, there's brilliant graphs for you right there. :)

Anyway, I believe it's good to have some variety in your reading; try new things, broaden your horizons, that sort of thing. The only problem is, of course, that at times I can be very cautious about my reading. I can go whole weeks without trying anything new or exciting, and I inevitably go back to my favourite authors for comfort. Not that this is a bad thing, of course. I also believe if you love a book you should be allowed to re-read it at your own leisure, and without being judged for constantly reading 'the same old thing'. Still, however, I thought making up a few funky graphs would make it a lot more exciting and colourful to keep up with what I'm currently reading.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fun With Charts, Part One: the Power of Pies

I have to admit that I was always one of those people to whom the mysteries of Microsoft Excel were... well, exceedingly mysterious. But the power of procrastination does wonderful things. So this morning, while I was (unsuccessfully) trying to study for a dangerously close exam, I suddenly thought to myself, "By golly! I sure don't know how to use Microsoft Excel! Perhaps I should go and teach myself. That would be a productive and intelligent use of my time!"

And, indeed, that's exactly what I did. Because after all, what's more important than learning to create meaningful visual representations of data? The only problem was, of course, that I didn't actually have any data.

But I didn't let that stop me, oh no! Luckily I'm the sort of person who records every single book they read in a little notebook, and so pulling out my handy notebook I got to work. The problem was, once I made one graph, it just wasn't enough. I was spookily reminded of that episode of How I Met Your Mother when Marshall becomes addicted to making charts. My favourite, which I will never forget, being of course the Cecilia chart. Pure genius.

RTW: Elevator Tales

Wednesdays are 'blog carnival' days over at YA Highway, where readers respond to questions posted by the YA Highway team. Today's question is:

You're re-reading one of your favs when someone asks the dreaded question: "What's that book about?" Give us your best off-the-cuff blurb of any book, any genre, and have your readers try to guess the title in the comments!
This is a great challenge as I often find I have trouble explaining things. (Also I find it weird when people talk to me on the lift, as if we're on the set of some sort of late-nineties romantic comedy and the old lady with the crazy hair, the tuna-fish smell and the shopping bags is about to tell me something profound and life-changing that twenty years later I'll be telling to my own kids when I tell them the story of my whirlwind romance with their father.) I'm the sort of person who, when asked to define a word, tells you to go and get a dictionary so that either a) I cover my own ignorance and shame at not knowing the answer, or b) I can cloak my own incompetence in a display of intellectual superiority.

So anyway, here goes:

"Okay. Um. So it's the story of Armageddon, right, but there's this angel and this demon who are both trying to stop Armageddon from happening for different reasons, but they unwittingly lose the Antichrist and he grows up as a normal little English boy. And it's all framed by the prophecies of this sixteenth-century witch who predicted the whole thing happening. And her great-great-great-something granddaughter is also trying to stop it happening with the help of a twentieth-century witchfinder. It's absolutely hilarious."

Any guesses? ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

RTW: Goals and Rewards

Wednesdays are 'blog carnival' days over at YA Highway, where readers respond to questions posted by the YA Highway team. Today's question is:

How do you reward yourself when you meet your writing goals? Answer for big goals (i.e. I will buy a Lear jet when I get published) and/or small goals (I eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's in one sitting when I finish each chapter).

I realise I've been MIA for a few weeks, and just when I was starting to get into the habit of posting regularly. Sadly, my assessments tend to come round in horrifying unexpected cycles, huddling together like baby bears afraid of the cold. So I've been struggling to keep a hold of my sanity as I rush towards the end of semester. Hopefully I'll make it out alive, but at the moment it's touch and go.

I thought I'd keep up with YA Highway's RTW though, so here's my response to this week's question.

I had a surge of creativity about a week ago, sat down and wrote for four hours straight three days on end. For me, this is a record as I haven't really worked out a system for my writing yet. Of course, sometimes it's just hard to sit down and write. Which makes setting goals and rewards a tempting thing. Sadly, I've never been the person to do such things. So I've decided for today's RTW to post a plan I'd like to put into action rather than one I'm actually following.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: The Heart of Midlothian

So I took a little break from the Internet - and, in fact, the computer! - over the Easter break (something my Script Frenzy script is now punishing me for) and spent a bit of time reading a bunch of books I've been meaning to finish for a long, long time. One of these was The Heart of Midlothian, by Sir Walter Scott, which has been sitting on my night desk for about three months. No kidding. But I finally finished it and I wanted to post a review on it, seeing as I haven't posted for a while. Plus the fact that I finally finished the book made me want to celebrate a bit. I thought it was a waste to read the book for three months and then just put it back on my shelf. So, with that in mind....

How far would you go to save a sister's life? Would you tell a lie? How much would you sacrifice?

The Heart of Midlothian is a simple story which probably could have been several times shorter than it actually was; it essentially centres around a young woman called Jeanie Deans, whose half-sister is accused of child-murder and sentenced to death. Jeanie, unable to lie in a court of law to save her sister's life (a point which didn't quite sit with me, but more on that later), heads down the long road to London to try and get a pardon for her sister from the King.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

'I'm Lord Vader' and Other Signs He's Probably Not 'First Kiss' Material

Wednesdays are 'blog carnival' days over at YA Highway, where readers respond to questions posted by the YA Highway team. Today's question is:

Compare your first kiss with your favorite characters first kiss?

Ok. So this topic is a little problematic for me because I often struggle with the accounts of first kisses in YA fiction. My main problem? They're over-romanticised.

Let me start by describing my first kiss; being fairly hopeless with men on a 'romantic' level when I was younger, I didn't have my first kiss until just after leaving school. By the time it actually happened any romantic notions I'd developed about it had all been blown out of the water. Eventually, I had my first kiss because I was so desperate to tick another box in the 'teenage experiences' list that I managed to get over my customary awkwardness around sexually appealing members of the opposite sex and just went for it. It happened in a dingy club, after a few too many shots* and with a man whose name I instantly forgot (which probably wouldn't have mattered anyway as it was so loud in the club he could have said anything from 'I'm Jim' to 'I'm Lord Vader, scourge of the Galaxy' and I wouldn't have known the difference) and whose face I cannot now recall. He was very attractive, thankfully, and my kiss was relatively brief but with it came a rush of understanding.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Narnia Debate: or, Kids vs. Adults

"Make 'em think, Blondie." Even kids'
films are trying to tell us something.
But can we figure it out?
The other day I was reading this post over at Erinn’s blog and yesterday, it popped into my head again. You see, up until yesterday I’d been firmly convinced that being an adult runs circles around being a kid. Sure, I know all the usual arguments: lack of responsibility, freedom of imagination, ability to wear awesome Elmo backpacks without irony... but I was still convinced that being an adult was several hundred times better than being a kid.

And then yesterday I sat down to watch Disney’s latest movie Tangled, having heard how wonderful it was, and my sister said to me, “Wow, now I want to watch old Disney movies.” Without thinking I replied, “me too.” At this we shared a look; what were we thinking? We were two mature, intelligent and – though I say so myself – not unattractive young women... and all we wanted to do of a Sunday afternoon was sit down and watch kid’s films. At first I was dreadfully embarrassed, but then I began to think to myself... maybe being a kid isn’t so bad after all.

Monday, April 11, 2011

And For Your Challenge THIS Month...

Nothing to do in April, as the cold winds begin to roll in and you feel it’s almost socially acceptable for you to wrap yourself in a massive doonah and disappear for months on end, until forced once more out of your little cocoon by the hot weather?

Yeah. That’s how I felt mid-March this year. So I thought I’d try something different. I decided to try out Script Frenzy. What is Script Frenzy, you may ask? Well, it’s to screenwriting what Nanowrimo is to novel-writing. Essentially it challenges you to write a 100-page script – TV, film, stage – in the month of April. Sounds like fun, right? I thought so, while I was pondering how I was going to celebrate the long winter nights that were fast approaching. And so I decided to take a leap into previously uncharted writing territory. Essentially, this was my thought process...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

RTW: A Tourist's Guide to 2111

Wednesdays are 'blog carnival' days over at YA Highway, where readers respond to questions posted by the YA Highway team. Today's question is:

Assuming we make it through the 2010 apocalypse, what do you imagine the publishing world will look like 100 years from now?

Picture it. The year is 2111. A lazy afternoon sun dips across the scorching red wasteland that is the Australian outback. The dust stirs. One man - dressed all in leather, Mad Max style, despite the heat - zips across the landscape on a motorcycle like a black-and-grey wasp. But this is no joy ride. This is war.

Suddenly, on the horizon, shimmering, appear his pursuers. Even from a distance, they're high-tech in comparison to this Mel Gibsoneque vigilante. You can't see their faces because their vehicles seem to encase them in what looks like - if you're not afraid to have your fingers broken for making such an observation - a giant, flying silver egg.

Welcome, traveller, to the future.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Layout... But Will it Last?

New layout. Why do those words always fill me with such dread? I guess I just get bored easily. I like new, shiny things. So every once in a while I like to renovate. And that doesn't just go for my online haunts. I think if I had the money and the upper body strength I'd constantly be re-arranging my room. As it is I generally take down the books on my bookshelf every couple of months and just put them all back in a different order. Thrilling, right?

But today I re-arranged the layout for the blog. And gave it a new name, though I decided to stick with the mirror theme. Just to keep a little consistency going.

Chicago Ink is going well; it'll probably start showing up around Easter. Yay!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Coming Soon: Chicago Ink

First of all, and before I get any further, go and enter the great giveaway contest at Hope Junkie. Because it's awesome. :) You can win some great books, including The Book Thief and Sara Zarr's Sweethearts.
I thought it was high time I updated with a little of my actual writing. (I think that's the reason I started blogging. I can't honestly remember! :D) And so I've decided to begin uploading chapters of Chicago Ink, a story I began writing a few years ago simply for fun, no pressure, that sort of thing.
In the heart of Chicago, trouble is brewing....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

RTW: Whadda Ya Know... About WIPs?

This week for YA Highway's weekly Road Trip Wednesday, the idea is to ask a question:

Although I'm not currently working on a major story or idea, I'd be lying if I said I didn't one day hope to get something into print. Publishing is a long and daunting process, it seems to me, and not a little terrifying.

But my problem seems to be centred more on one thing: I just can't seem to focus on one story long enough to write up a full draft. I have at least fifteen stories that I choose between. I write depending on what mood I'm in, rather like my reading. Do I feel like Fantasy? Tackling the Sci-Fi? Romance? Working on a Fanfiction? Believe me, I've got a semi-finished story in just about every genre.

So my question is this: How do you find that one idea that you feel confident enough about to actually say, yes, this is the story I one day want to hold in my hand as a published book? How do you decide which idea you want to become your official WIP; and how do you stick to it?

Image from here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fifteen Reasons Why Books Are Better Than Computers

So. First off, I have spent the last four days valiantly battling with a persistent little virus which turned up, uninvited, on my computer last Thursday. It was only thanks to the magical and miraculous articles of How to Geek that this computer un-savvy girl was able to successfully root the little bugger out. Sadly, not before it seems to have damaged my Sims game, forcing me to spend the next fifteen odd hours in a joyful re-installation coma. Naturally, I spent a lot of time waiting for virus scans to complete over the weekend, during which I composed the following, in honour of my pesky little friend. It was written during the brief intervals when I wasn't trying to rip my hair off my head patch by patch. Here's to you, you rotten little bugger, and may you rot in hell.

Fifteen Reasons Why Books Are Better Than Computers.

1.) Books don't take ten minutes to load and, when they're done, demand you do a full virus scan and reboot.
2.) Books never crash.
3.) You don't have to spend three hours a week backing up your books.
4.) Books don't require a plethora of different passwords in order to access them which, after you've entered them, you promptly forget, and spend the next three hours trying to recall.
5.) If books took over the world, the worst you'd be able to say would be that we'd all be incredibly verbose and intelligent. If computers took over the world, we'd only be able to communicate in ones and zeroes.
6.) A good book is hard to put down, but a good computer is impossible to pick up.
7.) You don't need to take a book to the repair shop if you accidentally drop it in the pool.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Review: The Castle of Otranto

The Otranto Observer:
Prince Squashed by Giant Airborne Helmet! Full News on Page Six!
Lord of Otranto Says - "Sorry, the Castle Ain't Mine!"
FULL Interview with Covergirl Isabella - "He was Never the One for Me!"
Love Advice from Star-Struck Pair! Theodore and Matilda Tell All - How YOU Can Find True Love in Just Ten Seconds!
Jerome and Hippolita's 'Faithful's Corner': Why Entering a Monastery's the Only Way to Go!
The Commoner's Chronicle: Bianca and her Fellows Tell Why THEY'RE the Ones Who Saved Otranto!

Phew. Sorry. With a novel like Otranto it's hard not to inject a little sarcasm into the reviewing of the book. In honour of Horace Walpole - father of Gothic fiction - I'm going to write this review with as many dashes - and breaks - as I possibly can.

It's not difficult to see why Otranto is still an important book today. As a novel it marks the beginning of a new form of popular fiction - the Gothic - which would never quite die down. Its ancestors are alive and well today - Just look at the shelves of any YA section in any bookstore in the world.

 So. It's an important book. It's pretty famous, too. Added to that, it's short, at a measly 100-or-so pages. It's a quick read, even if a little challenging. Otranto is a book I've long wanted to read but never found the time to. Mostly, it's due to laziness, but I decided now was the perfect time to take a dip into the pool of Early Gothic.